BBB Alert—Rockford fax number tied to international online scam

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Chicago and Northern Illinois has issued an alert to warn consumers about a scam to ripoff online shoppers who are looking to purchase “big-ticket” items advertised at “low ball” prices.

The scam involves the use of fake BBB services that guarantee the purchase and payment for such things as motorcycles, cars and jet skis. Complainants report the merchandise was posted on online auction/shopping sites, which include eBay,, and When attempting to make a purchase, the buyers in some cases have been told their purchases would be “securely handled through the Better Business Bureau Company’s insurance service.” Through a series of e-mails, they are told the buyers and the transactions would be approved by the BBB.

Next, the “approved” buyers received electronic invoices instructing them to wire, in most cases, thousands of dollars to a Western Union in another country to one of the BBB’s agents. While the money was to be wired to Greece, Ireland and England, the buyers were instructed to fax proof of the money transfer to a number in Rockford.

In addition to the use of the bogus Better Business Bureau Company insurance service, invoices have also been sent signed by the “Better Business Bureau Finance Department” as well as the “BBB Auto Buyers Protection Program.” All of these fake operations use the same Rockford fax number for verification.

According to Dennis Horton, director of the BBB’s Regional Office in Rockford, the “Council of Better Business Bureaus has reported this fraudulent activity to several law enforcement authorities including the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, who was asked to help shut down the fax number and to find out to whom it belonged.” Unfortunately, Horton adds, by the time the victim would use the fax number, the damage was already done.

He advises that consumers take note of the following:

The BBB does not operate a “Better Business Bureau Insurance Service,” and it does not offer a “BBB Auto Buyers Protection Program;”

The BBB is not a “preferred insurance provider” for eBay or any other entity;

The BBB does not manage financial transactions for online merechants; and

The BBB does not issue profiles or reports on individuals; the BBB reports only on businesses.

You can further protect yourself when doing business on a site such as eBay by never letting a seller convince you to leave the Web site to complete the transaction or by using a wire transfer service such as Western Union to pay for products.

From the July 20-26, 2005, issue

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